Kremlin still hopes to draw official Minsk into trade war with Kiev
A member of the Board on Trade in the Eurasian Economic Union, Minister Slepnyov, said that the Eurasian Economic Union did not preclude introducing protective measures on the Customs Union market due to Ukraine’s signing of the Association Agreement with the EU.
It should be noted that Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia have already introduced unilateral restrictions on certain groups of goods from Ukraine, for example, on confectionery products, referring to internal reasons - to protect their markets under the import substitution policy. The Kremlin aspires to present unilateral measures taken by Belarus and Kazakhstan to restrict imports of Ukrainian goods, as joint actions of the Customs Union members in the EurAsEC – in order to put pressure on Kiev and strengthen the propaganda effect. However, official Minsk is not interested in siding with the Kremlin and participating in a trade war – quite the opposite, it hopes to increase trade with Ukraine.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.